West Oktibbeha County High School welcomed a new principal three weeks into the new school year.
Leonardo Thompson has succeed previous principal Helen Kennard, who has now taken over the position of assistant principal.
“I felt that there needed to be a change in leadership,” Supt. James Covington stated. “We interviewed several applicants and he was the best fit.”
Covington particularly felt Thompson’s 10-year experience as Quad-County Alternative School’s dean of students provided him with “excellent experience” as an administrator, Covington said.
The OCSD Board of Trustees approved Thompson’s hiring during its Aug. 9 special called budget meeting, and he began work Sept. 1.
“I had to jump off the truck running,” Thompson said of his mid-semester start. “It’s a big change from the alternative school to a high school, but the staff has been very supportive.”
Thompson began working as a family-specialist at Quad 12 years ago after graduating from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.
After just a year as a family specialist, Thompson was promoted to dean of students where he oversaw the daily operations and working closely with students, faculty and parents.
He also spent time as the interim director of Quad when the school found itself in between
directors. He is currently working towards his master’s degree in educational administration.
“I think leading West High, the biggest change is leading more students with larger goals. Here, more students want to be successful,” Thompson explained. “Teachers are the same — they all want to see the kids reach their goals and succeed.”
Thompson believes his time at Quad has given him beneficial insight into lives and minds of high school students that he will use to his advantage to become an affective leader at West High.
“Working at Quad, I was able to working with students who were there mainly for behavioral issues,” he explained.
“I did a lot of research on that and I was able to see their hardships, and that made me more aware and able to come to their level. It taught me to see the little details and focus on the students’ problems.”
Thompson already have a list of plans he hopes to implement to improve West High.
“I want to focus on rebuilding the infrastructure and rebuilding the thought processes of the students,” Thompson said. “I want to bring new ideas, new vision, more technology because that is the world we live in, and that will enable them to become more successful.”
Thompson also hopes to turn students’ focus to improving state test scores as West High has been labeled failing and at risk of failing for the last two years.
Differentiated instruction will also be a big push Thompson hopes to implement in classrooms in an effort to reach every type of learning style. West High recently installed eight Smart Boards in classrooms to further the technology gains the district made as a goal for the school year.
“We’re trying to implement smaller classrooms to have more one-on-one instruction,” Thompson said. “I want to see more tutoring to prepare the students with test-taking strategies.”
Thompson also has plans to work on parental involvement, which has historically been low.
“We’ll start by having more PTO meetings. The class with the most parental support, we’re looking at having rewards like MSU home football tickets,” Thompson explained. “We’re planning for more parent nights — more fatherhood nights, more motherhood nights — to increase parental involvement.”
Thompson hopes to accomplish his goals by using skills he has developed while working at Quad. Being able to develop relationships with students, faculty, staff and parents is key to the school’s success, Thompson explained.
Thompson said he is looking forward to being a successful leader in his new position, and hopes to see the impact his changes will make.
“I’m looking forward to raising test scores, and looking at raising the respectability level of this school,” he stated. “I’m looking forward to pushing the Oktibbeha County School District to the top of academic standards.”